Martial arts tremendously impacted my life in such a positive way and it can have a profound impact on yours! I didn’t start at age 4 or 5. I started at 18 years old. I had a job. I could pay for myself and I could sign the waiver to train-2 things my parents were unwilling to do. I had been bullied in school. I had a father who made our home life extremely volatile. To say it mildly, I lacked self-confidence, self-worth and I was filled with enormous fear. I hated trying new things, going new places and worst of all meeting new people. I was extremely shy. People thought I was rude or stuck up because I would not talk in social situations with new people. It was not because of that, it was because I felt I had nothing worthy to contribute to the conversation; I was socially awkward. I just wanted to not be seen-disappear. Plus, I was anxious and extremely tired from the constant anxiety and fear all the time.
Back then, there were not a lot of karate schools around. I knew someone that was a Black Belt from the karate school in our town from my High School. He had so much confidence and was so outgoing. I admired those qualities. He had gone off to college so he would not be there. I wouldn’t know a soul there. I was terrified of going into that karate school for the first time but there was something inside me driving me to want to change how I felt about myself. Would I be laughed at? Would I be able to do the kicks, punches, and techniques required of me? What if I make an ass of myself? There will be all these people staring at me, new people I never met. My Mother made me take my older sister with me. The last thing my Mother said to us before we left for the class was don’t get hurt, your father will kill me if he knows you are going there. Great, more fear. Crazy I can remember that like it was yesterday even though it was over 30 years ago.
We walk up all the stairs to the school. The school was on the third floor in a circa late 1800’s building. So it wasn’t even like we could sit outside the place and look inside through the windows to know what to expect. There was no internet site with photos to check the place out because there was no internet yet! Holy cow, am I really doing this? I felt like throwing up! We come to the top of the 6th flight of stairs to a desk with a man sitting behind the desk. There were chairs crammed in this area and all kinds of duffle bags and shoes. I was ready to turn around and high tail it out of there. Grandmaster Dave Wheaton asked us if we were there to try a class. We sheepishly said yes. Through the door I could see that it opened up into a large training area with hard wood floors. There were a lot of people in there dressed in their uniforms with all different color belts. We filled out our forms, signed our waivers, and before I could make a run for it, I was ushered into the training area. I thought to myself, ok, I will learn a few things to protect myself but a Black Belt or even any colored underbelt, no way. The class is called to attention, we are directed where to stand, we are being checked out by all the other students. I laughed nervously to myself, “we are the newbies”. We go through the stretches and warm ups. We are then directed into the back of the room. A Black Belt is assigned to us to show us the basic stances and beginner kicks and punches. My sister and I laughed so hard that night because it was so awkward and new but so much fun!!!! Kicking and punching that target; it was so empowering. I realized how much anger I had built up inside me. I felt so light for the first time in forever, feeling the anxiety at bay for a while. To learn the beginning self-defense escapes, made me feel more confident, less fearful. By the end of that class I was hooked. All the fear I had about the other students laughing at us were for nothing. Everyone was so supportive and friendly!
Fast forward more than 30 years, I am the instructor greeting the new students on their incredible journey. I am extremely compassionate for the new students and make them feel welcome because I know how it is walking in for the first time. I make sure that the other students make our new students feel welcome. There is no ego, it is just my way of giving back to people the immense gifts that were given to me through my training in martial arts. I now have self-confidence, I now have self-worth. I have healthy amounts of anxiety and fear. I don’t have buried anger. I can enter a room and strike up a conversation with the first person I meet. I can speak up at a work meeting for my ideas. I can and actually enjoy getting up and speaking in front of people. All of these things were a result of my training in martial arts and I have figured out ways to incorporate these skills into martial arts drills. Having gone through it, understanding it, helps me make a better experience for my students. What took me many years to achieve, will be quicker for my students because I have figured it out already.
If you ever were thinking about trying martial arts, please do it. Do it for yourself, do it for your family, do it for the world because with confidence and fear at bay who knows what amazing things you will accomplish in your lifetime. It is never too late to start. You are never too old to start. I have a female student who started at the age of 49 because she always wanted to do it but thought it was only for kids and she LOVES it and is doing AMAZING at it!!! It is for everyone! We have students including me with different injuries that we modify the training for. We have had students of all ages. You don’t have to get in shape to start. Martial arts will help you build a stronger body and is a great form of fitness. It is actually one of the best because you are constantly engaging the mind as well as moving the body. It helps make your body more limber through the stretching. Best of all, Hapkido, the art I teach, is extremely practical for real world situations standing and even if the situation ends up on the ground.
Don’t do it someday. I learned last year someday is not a guarantee, today is what we have. So do it Today!
Take care and Live Your TOP Life!!!!!
Master Ellen Reichelt
TOP Martial Arts and Fitness For Life